Keep to the Status Quo: Analyzing Behavioral Responses to the Change of Ball in the NBA

Gentry Julian and Joshua A. Price

The National Basketball Association (NBA) changed the official game ball from leather to synthetic to start the 2006–07 season. The NBA argued that the synthetic ball was superior to the leather ball and would be beneficial to player performance. The Nation-al Basketball Association Players Association (NBAPA) argued that performance de-creased as a result of the ball change and filed an unfair practice labor grievance against the league. As a result, the league reverted back to using a leather ball in the middle of the season (after January 1). We test the claims of the NBA and the NBPA to see if the changing of the ball affected performance. Using multiple identification strategies, we find no evidence to suggest that player performance was significantly affected by the type of ball used. We rely on insights from behavioral economics to describe why the players were opposed to this policy change even when it had no measurable impact on performance.

Open Access